Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Two Es of Parenting

Last week, the Lord granted the opportunity to listen to two sermons on parenting: John Piper on "Fathers Who Give Hope" and C.J. Mahaney on 2 Tim. 3:14-15, “Gospel-Centered Parenting/Leading by Example.” Both sermons are included in the UA roundup.

Two Es focus our parenting in these sermons: Encourage and Example.

Encouraging Our Children
Piper’s sermon was a strong exhortation for fathers not to exasperate but to encourage their children.

It wasn’t so much the exposition or the application in this sermon that helped me, but as you might expect, the impact or impression made on my affections. That’s not to say there wasn’t good truth pulled from God’s word, just to say the overriding impression made on me was to examine whether or not my children are primarily encouraged by my parenting interactions with them or discouraged.

This is a sensitive and important topic for me because emotionally I tend toward intensity. I’ve spent years working on not being so intense both for my own soul’s benefit and for the benefit of others around me. For my own soul, I’m learning that delighting in the Lord has more range than just deep intensity. The best way I can explain this is that I spent most of my formative years in competitive sports, and I was always the “spiritual leader” of the team. I played aggressively and emotionally most every play. I also talked a lot of trash. Now combine that with some serious pride issues and you get a recipe for being demanding, intimidating, impatient, and a host of other sins. Add to that at 6’2” frame now at 250lb and holding, black skin, a deep voice… and lots of people fear you. Anyway, I’ve spent a lot of years learning to be “smaller” and more gentle so others are at ease. And internally, learning to express what I hope is a wider range of emotion, or if not a wider range then a wider set of expressions.

So how does this affect my parenting? I can be discouraging because I can be demanding. I have to control my face, which is too often just shy of a scowl—one eyebrow raised, jaws set, eyes boring. About three weeks ago, without intending to at all, my daughters left an interaction with me where they thought I was angry but I was simply intending to hurry them along to their mother who was waiting for them in the car. When they reached the car, one of my daughters said sheepishly, “We don’t like it when daddy gets that red look in his eyes.”

Ouch!! I’d simply (or so I thought) walked from sermon prep in my office to tell the girls to hurry outside and meet their mom. It was a routine thing in my mind, but the kids were intimidated. And intimidated is not what I want for any of my children.

I’ve never yelled at my children, but then I don’t have to. I can count on one hand the number of times, by God’s grace, that any of our children have needed correction with physical discipline, but perhaps they’re just fearful more often than I think. After all, I must be a giant to them.

Piper’s sermon was a needed exhortation to be encouraging. There’s a lot of applause for our children’s achievements in our home. There’s a lot of hugging, gentle kisses on foreheads, “I love you’s” and “you can do its,” laughing together and joking, and recently a lot more dancing since Titus has discovered a couple scenes from “Stomp the Yard.” Don’t get me wrong; we’re a happy family and we enjoy one another. But for my part, I’ve got to think more about encouraging my children and addressing ways that I may intimidate them unintentionally. And part of that is just simply spending more time with the children in an uninterrupted, unhurried way.

Application: Talk with the children about ways they may be afraid of daddy. Ask my wife for her observations of my interaction with the children.

Teaching Our Children by Example
C.J. chose 2 Tim. 3:14-15 as his text for this sermon.

The main premise of the sermon was “Parenting cannot be defined as biblical if it is not gospel-centered.” Put positively: “The gospel should never be ignored or assumed or simply alluded to in the context of parenting.”

Considering the text, C.J. suggested that gospel-centered parenting involves:
Authentic example…
and scriptural instruction…
for the purpose of salvation.

Most of the sermon was spent meditating on authentic example as reflected in the phrase “knowing from whom you learned it” in the text. Some nuggets from the sermon:

“Modeling precedes teaching. Teaching involves explaining to our children what they are already observing in our lives by example.”
“Any contradiction between our proclamation and our practice undermines our proclamation. All consistency between proclamation and practice confirms the authority of the gospel and indeed promotes the attractiveness of the gospel.”

Application Question:
“What are my children observing as they study me daily and in detail?”

C.J. asked: “If I interview your children and asked, ‘what difference does the gospel make to your dad,” how would they respond? How would your children respond if I asked them, ‘What are your father and mother most passionate about, or most deeply committed to?’”

Obviously these questions go together with the encouragement considerations above.

Other Questions for Reflection:
Are they observing inescapable, undeniable evidences of gospel grace in our lives? Are they observing affectionate and passionate songs and expressions of my love for the Savior? Are they observing a difference between who we are Sunday morning in corporate worship and Sunday evening at home? Do they see love for and devotion to God’s word as evidenced by love for, study of, and obedience to God’s word? Do they observe growth in godliness as evidenced by conviction of sin, progress in sanctification, passion for and involvement in your local church?

Concluding Thought:
“Think of the difference it will make to be able to say to your child because of your example, ‘Continue in the faith knowing from whom you learned it.’ Think of the difference it will make if you can not say this.”

I want to be able to say to our children, “Continue in the faith knowing from whom you learned it.” What a great goal for parenting.

1 comment:

Peter Bang said...

Thank you for your recap posts on the sermons! They've been so helpful!